Metro-East Living

How to create impressive holiday treats minus the kitchen fuss

How peppermint candy is made

This candy company makes soft, melt-in-your-mouth peppermint candy with a recipe they've used since the Great Depression.
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This candy company makes soft, melt-in-your-mouth peppermint candy with a recipe they've used since the Great Depression.

It truly doesn’t matter what you pack your homemade Christmas treats in. From a candy tin that has the manufacturer’s name on the lid to wrapped tissue and a gift bag, no one cares! They just want what’s inside.

So many food bloggers, Pinterest and other crafty sites all want you to spend a lot of time and attention on what’s on the outside, dressing up jars, boxes and containers with glue, glitter, ribbon, paint and more.

But what we all know is that the fudge, candy, cookies, or whatever is inside, is the shining star.

Every year, I ponder what recipes to include that would make delectable gifts from the kitchen. I try to aim for ease of preparation, lack of overly expensive ingredients and great taste.

These recipes require no serious baking. You’ll have to do a little stirring along the way, maybe pop something in the oven to melt, but nothing a beginner can’t handle or a pro can’t do while making four other things!

Peppermint Candy Ornaments

The directions say these are supposed to be ornaments, but I’d stick them in a gift basket wrapped in plastic, with or without a ribbon to string them up.

Peppermint candies

Metal cookie cutters

Non-stick cooking spray

Parchment paper

Toothpick or skewer

Twine or ribbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the inside of each cookie cutter with cooking spray. Lay cookie cutters on baking sheet and fill with a layer of peppermints.

Bake 3-9 minutes. Keep an eye on candy as it melts and remove from oven when candies have melted together.

Lightly coat a toothpick with cooking spray and use it to make a hole in each group of candies. (The tin end of a chopstick will work, too.) Let candy sit inside cookie cutter until it re-hardens. Once hard, carefully stretch out the cookie cutter, pulling it away from the candy, to pop out your ornament.

Wrap these peppermint treats individually in plastic wrap, if you’d like.

Tips: It may be helpful to make a trial run. Place one peppermint-filled cookie cutter into the oven to get an idea of how fast the candy will melt and how quickly it will cool and re-harden after you remove it from the oven.

Try turning down the temperature of your oven, so that candies will melt more slowly, if your candies are melting unevenly or at different rates.

Squeeze as many peppermints, side-by-side, into your cookie cutter as possible. If peppermints melt into too thin of a layer, try layering peppermints in the cookie cutter to make a thicker, more sturdy ornament.

Large, simply shaped, cookie cutters work best for this project. The more intricate the cutter, the more likely ornaments will break when removed from their cookie cutter mold.

Don’t forget to be careful around the hot metal and melted candy. This is a fun craft to make with children, but be sure to provide plenty of supervision.

Try not to handle the ornaments too much because they can get sticky, but they should be fine after they’re hanging on the tree.

Food blogger Shae Pendleton at

Snowflake Mix

3 cups bite-size rice square cereal

3 cups bite-size corn square cereal

1 cup small pretzel twists or pretzel sticks

1 cup honey-roasted peanuts

2 (12-ounce) packages white baking melts or bark

1 (12-ounce) package mint-flavored candy-coated milk chocolate pieces

In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels and peanuts; set aside.

Melt baking pieces according to package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal mixture. Stir gently to coat.

Spread on a large piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 1 month. Makes 16 cups.

Brazilian Chocolate Fudge Balls

14-ounce can dulce de leche or sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons butter unsalted

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Sprinkles, coconut flakes or ground nuts to coat

Cooking spray

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the dulce de leche, butter and cocoa. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are mixed together.

When the mixture begins to a boil, lower the heat and stir for 3-4 minutes more, or until it becomes thick and creamy, being careful not to burn the bottom.

Meanwhile, grease a bowl with cooking spray or butter. Remove mixture from heat and add to bowl. Let cool.

Roll into balls, about the size of a teaspoon. Place on a sheet with parchment paper.

Pour sprinkles into a small bowl. Dip each ball into the sprinkles and move it around until all the fudge ball is completely coated. Makes a dozen.

Note: Fudge balls can be chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.

Tiffany Bendayan at

Homemade Cookie Butter

This recipe was made with three different kinds of cookies: chocolate chip, vanilla wafers and Oreos. If using cookies that have icing in the middle, make sure you scrape it out before using.

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 package of cookies of your choice

In your food processor, turn your cookies into crumbs. Just put them in, turn it on high and let it happen. 1 pack of chocolate chip cookies, 1 box of vanilla wafers, and 1 pack of scraped Oreos each produced about one 16-ounce jar, so there is really no need to measure out your crumbs.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. Then, stir in sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.

With cookie crumbs in a large bowl, slowly add milk and butter mixture, combining with a wooden spoon. Add only enough until all your crumbs are sticking together and you can form a ball in your bowl. Don't add any more after that point. You may have some liquid leftover.

Your mixture may be a bit chunky or gritty. Don't worry, it will smooth it out later

-Set your stiff cookie mixture in the refrigerator to cool. (Even overnight is OK.)

At this point, you can decide how stiff or how smooth you'd like your cookie butter to be. Slowly add in very small amounts of hot water to your cookie butter, stirring until you reach your desired consistency.

Pour into containers. Makes about 16 ounces. Spread on toast, graham crackers, whatever suits your fancy.

Adapted from A Beautiful Mess by

Rolo Pretzel Sandwiches

50 small square pretzels

25 ROLO's

8 ounces white chocolate or almond bark

1/4 cup holiday sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place 25 of the square pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Place one Rolo candy on top of each pretzel.

Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake 3 minutes, until the Rolos have softened. Remove from the oven and place a square pretzel on top of each Rolo to form a sandwich. Let cool completely.

Add the melting wafers to a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute at 50 percent power, then stir. Continue to heat at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.

Dip half of each pretzel sandwich into the melted chocolate. Allow the excess chocolate to run off, then return to the baking sheet. Sprinkle with holiday sprinkles. Allow to cool completely before serving.